by Simon Daish
In a winner takes all affair, the Czechs made a bright start with Lubomir Jancarik and Tomas Polansky coming out on top in the opening game of the doubles. But, an immediate response followed from Hong Kong, China as Ho Kwan Kit and Ng Pak Nam turned the contest around in their favour (8-11, 11-4, 11-6, 11-7).
Then, in what was surely the fixture of the night, Pavel Sirucek produced a fierce comeback display from two games down to force Wong Chun Ting down to the wire. No room for error Wong stepped up the pace in game five to hold off a brave fight from his hard-hitting counterpart (11-6, 11-8, 7-11, 9-11, 11-7). Undoubtedly a star of tomorrow Tomas Polansky gave it his all in an attempt to keep his country in the tie, but a straight games loss to Ng Pak Nam (11-7, 11-6, 11-3) signalled the end of a fine run for the Czechs.
Disappointment for the brave Czechs but on reflection just reaching the final play-off round is a fine achievement in itself, especially considering the no.16 seeds and near exit to DPR Korea in round one.
Suffering a 0-3 defeat in the following match against top seeds Korea Republic it would have been easy for the Czech players’ heads to drop. However, the exact opposite happened with the squad feeling more motivated than ever, much to India’s frustration. Seeded fifth, India were anticipated to condemn Czech Republic to a second loss on the bounce, but an inspirational team performance saw the side from Europe defy the odds to extend its stay in the competition.
Hungary, the team responsible for ousting a strong Great British side, awaited the Czechs in the penultimate round of the second stage. Once again Pavel Sirucek, Lubomir Jancarik and Tomas Polansky were called upon, and once again they didn’t disappoint as Czech Republic stormed to a 3-0 victory. It was just incredibly unfortunate for the Czechs to meet a table tennis powerhouse in the form of Hong Kong, China at the final hurdle otherwise we might be talking about an even bigger success story!
The stats show that the Czech Republic won more matches than it lost (3:2) while both defeats came against higher seeded opposition. Despite missing out on the ultimate goal of securing qualification for Tokyo 2020, all in all it has been an admirable outing for the Czech Republic men’s team who can return home feeling proud of their efforts.